Today, the lead story on all my local news stations was about a Schizu named Tuchi who saved his family from a house fire by barking incessantly at the flames. Dog-saves-family-from-fire stories are always popular.
Not so popular, at least to the media? Stories about how registering sex offenders saves lives. There is only one story to be told about sex offender registries, according to the fourth estate, and that story is how registries viciously destroy men’s lives when all they did was commit one little sex crime and must now live forever under the cold eye of the state.
The corrective to such thinking is always just under the reporters’ noses, but most never seem to suss it out. Rodney Alcala is one such corrective, but once you get past the fact that Alcala has a giant IQ and funny hair and was once a contestant on The Dating Game, the media (with one significant exception) seems to have lost interest in any lessons that might be learned from his long and shocking criminal career.
For the L.A. Times, studied incuriosity is understandable: after all, they literally allowed Alcala to operate under their noses — in their offices — after he’d racked up an incredibly horrifying, publicly recorded sex crime record. I’d be busy changing the subject, too.
But what about everyone else? Alcala is a poster boy for the efficacy of registering sex offenders and other demonstrably violent criminals. Here is a guy who went from raping and trying to murder an 8-year old in California to working as a camp counselor in New Hampshire while spending weekends in New York killing socialites. Sure, he did it under an assumed name, but when you combine fingerprinting and national registries and DNA database sharing, you come up with a pretty compelling explanation for the sharp reduction in sex crimes over the past twenty years.
And when you don’t bother to do these things right, what you get is a trail of raped and murdered women, from places like Venice (Florida) to Bradenton, precisely where I once tried, and failed, to prevent a similar trail of women’s bodies, eighteen years ago.
Things are better today. But they won’t stay that way if we don’t recognize and acknowledge innovations that have actually lowered the crime rate. Powerful, well-funded, pro-offender activist groups are always working to roll back the clock on things like DNA databasing and minimum mandatory sentencing and three-strikes laws and sex offender registration, and, sadly, they’ve got most of the print media yipping their agenda like so many toy poodles.